Now that everyone is getting older, and grandkids are starting families and having holidays of their own, we don’t often have the big family get-togethers these days. Still, I’ll never forget the good old days at my grandparents’ house.
So it looks like I was mistaken and my brother will be stationed in the City of Mosques for the time being. The time difference is only an hour ahead from where I am, so this works out quite nicely as his new work schedule will be the morning shift from 4am to 12pm, with the rest of the day left to himself. According to him, his job will consist of checking convoys leaving and returning to the base so as to prevent friendly fire (cause it’s so easy to start shooting at something that looks armed).
While sitting in my kitchen, we got a nice video tour of his new place: apart from the bunk-beds in military decor, it’s like his own hotel room, complete with mini-fridge, television, Wi-Fi (albeit for $75/mo), air conditioning, and a window with blinds overlooking we’re not sure what yet (the sun drenched the view to the webcam). The local currency among the marines on the base are pogs and apparently there’s no need for him to venture into the city for chocolate; he can get what he needs from the PX on base.
Still, if he ever did need to go amongst the Iraqis, the marines are given a card with important gestures to remember when communicating with the locals. Here are a few of them:
Holding your hand up does not mean Stop, but Hello –– rather, you should hold your hand out straight, palm down, and wave it up and down if someone comes at you.
Never shake hands with an Iraqi with your left hand. The left hand is considered unclean in most of these countries, because guess what you use in the absence of toilet paper.
A Thumbs-Up is not a sign of support, but a foul insult roughly translating to ‘Up Yours!’
The most surprising news from him was that this entire base is supposed to be shut down completely within a few months, with everyone being transferred to other bases. Only 4 men killed within the past year (possibly only from accidents)… Okay, perhaps this is not surprising considering the various sieges since 2003 – what’s left to pose a threat? Well, let’s hope for successful reconstruction.
Last Friday, I happened to catch my brother online as he was waiting out his layover in Leipzig, Germany with the rest of his unit on their way to Iraq. If he had been in Frankfurt, I would have hopped on a train immediately to meet him, if only for a few minutes; as it was, we managed a conference call over skype between Michael, myself in Saarbrücken, my parents in Los Angeles, and his wife Jen (on her iPhone) on the road from Arizona to Texas. Ask me why I love technology.
This morning I caught him online again, this time in Fallujah, still waiting to make the remaining hour-long trip into Baghdad. Internet access, which cost him $10/hr in Leipzig, appeared to be free for him on a shared terminal, or $5/hr using his own laptop and a satellite connection. He’s promised to send me pictures as soon as he gets his camera working. All those troops of yesteryear who waited weeks or months to get letters from their families while fighting overseas, and we get video conferencing whenever he plugs in. Ask me again why I love technology.
It was my mother’s idea, but my little brother’s such a big softy that I know he’ll appreciate it. If you see me wearing red on Fridays, it’s not that I’m living with HIV/Aids, or that I’m saying ‘No to Drugs’, or that I am protesting the war, or making any kind of political statement whatsoever. I’m wearing red on Fridays as a token of faith and support for my brother, until he comes home safely to his wife and family.